Instructions for [Cultivating] the Pure Land Dharma Gateway
By the Great Ming Dynasty Dhyana Master Han-shan De-ching

From The Record of Dream Wanderings
As Recorded by Attendant Fu-shan and Edited by Personal Student Tung-jyung.
Syu-dzang Jing, 1.2.32 / 162a-163b / (Dharmamitra Translation)

The dhyana meditator Hai-yang came from afar to have an audience at Gwang-shan. He sought the transmittal of the dharma of the precepts. It was directed that he be given the [Dharma] name of "Profoundly Foolish." Holding up the stick of incense and requesting assistance, he declared, "I, disciple so-and-so, have made a vow to seek rebirth in the Pure Land of the West and to gather a number of Dharma companions together in the same place that we might exclusively practice pure karma. I pray that [the Master] will be compassionate and proffer instruction in the essentials of Dharma."

On account of this, the Old Master instructed him, saying, "In the Buddha's explanation of dharmas to be cultivated for the purpose of going forth from [the sphere of] birth and death, there are many types of skilful means. It is only [the method of] mindfulness-of-the-buddha with the intention of achieving rebirth in the Pure Land that is the most rapid and essential. The perfect and marvelous Dharma gateways of such [teachings as] The Floral Adornment Sutra and The Lotus Sutra as well as the marvelous conduct of Samantabhadra all ultimately point in their import towards the Pure Land. Such great patriarchs as and Nagarjuna as well as those from this region such as Yung-ming and Jung-feng all engaged in extremely strong promotion of the single gateway of the Pure Land.

This Dharma gateway was spoken spontaneously by the Buddha without his first being asked. It comprehensively takes on all three grades of faculties and equally takes in all four groups [of disciples]. It is not the case that it is a provisional technique set forth for those of inferior faculties. In a sutra, it states, "If one [would] purify the buddha land, one [must] engage in constant purification of one's own mind." As the primary priority one must first establish purity in the faculty of the precepts. This is because the ten evil karmic deeds consisting of the three physical, the four verbal and the three mental [karmic actions] constitute the causes for suffering in the three [miserable] destinies. Now, one possesses the essential [prerequisite] of upholding the precepts. If one first takes as a necessity the purification of the three karmic vehicles [of body, mouth and mind], then the mind will naturally become pure on its own.

If the body does not engage in killing, does not engage in stealing and does not engage in sexual misconduct, then the karma of the body becomes pure. If one does not lie, does not engage in frivolous speech, duplicitous speech, or in harsh speech, then the karma of the mouth becomes pure. If the mind does not engage in greed, hatred or stupidity then the karma of the intellectual mind becomes pure.

When in this manner the ten evil actions have become eternally cut off and the three karmic vehicles have become as pure as ice this brings about the essential [prerequisite] of the purified mind. Within this pure mind one develops an aversion for the suffering of the Saha world, brings forth the vow to go forth to rebirth, and peacefully nourishes one's establishment of the correct practice of mindfulness-of-the-buddha. Having done this, then the absolute essential requirement in mindfulness-of-the-buddha becomes the urgency of one's mind in relation to birth-and-death.

One first cuts off external conditions. One exclusively brings up the one thought. One takes the one phrase, "Amitabha" as the very root of one's life. It is not forgotten for even a single moment. It is not cut off for even the space of a single thought. During both the day and night, whether walking, standing, sitting or lying down, whether picking up a spoon or raising the chopsticks, whether twisting or turning around, whether bending down or raising up, whether moving or still, and whether at leisure or busy, -- in every single moment one refrains from any stupidity or mental darkness. One does not allow the intrusion of any other conditions.

If one uses the mind in this manner then after a time it becomes so pure and completely developed that one does not forget [one's mindfulness] even in one's dreams. Wakefulness and sleep become of a single suchness. When this becomes the case then one's skill becomes subtle and integrated and then becomes fused into a single, [continuous] entity. It is at this time that one gains realization of the power [of this practice].

If one's mindfulness reaches the state where one is single-minded and [one's thoughts are] not scattered, then when one approaches the end of one's life, the realm of the Pure Land will manifest before one. Then, one will naturally not be detained by birth and death. This being the case, one will then achieve as a response [the manifestation of] Amitabha who will emit light and lead one forth. This demonstrates the efficacy [of this practice's ability] to definitely bring about [the desired] rebirth. Thus this single-minded exclusive mindfulness assuredly is a correct mode of practice.

Additionally, one should definitely supplement it with visualizations. One will then perceive more of the esoteric. For the sake of Vaidehii, the Buddha explained the sixteen marvelous contemplations. As a result, in this one life she took them all up and brought them to realization. Now, The Contemplations Sutra is still presently extant. If one gathers together pure companions with whom to carry on the same cultivation, based on their individual resolve and wishes, each person could select a single contemplation from among the sixteen contemplations.

Alternately, one may simply visualize the marvelous features of the Buddha or [one of] the bodhisattvas. Or else one may visualize the realm of the Pure Land as in The Amitabha Sutra wherein it describes the lotus blossoms, the jeweled ground, and so forth. One may engage in visualizations in a manner which accords with one's own aspirations. If the visualizations become distinct and clear, then during both the day and night they manifest before one as if one was abiding in the Pure Land. Whether one is sitting, lying down, or walking, whether one opens the eyes or shuts the eyes, it is as if it were right before one's eyes.

When the visualization has become perfected in a way such as this, when one draws to the end of one's life, one is suddenly reborn in the space of a single thought. This is the so-called case of "as for being reborn, one is definitely reborn. As for going [there], one does not actually go [anywhere at all]." This is the marvelous import of the Pure Land as mind alone.

If one applies one's mind in this manner and if one meticulously upholds the practice of the precepts, then the six faculties become pure. If one eternally cuts off evil karma and afflictions, then the mind ground becomes pure. If one's contemplative mindfulness becomes continuous, then the marvelous practice is easily perfected. As for the true cause of the Pure Land, there is nothing which lies outside of this.

If one's mindfulness of the buddha consists only in verbal utterances and yet one seeks thereby to gain rebirth in the Pure Land, if one fails to uphold the pure precepts, if one fails to cut off the afflictions, and if the mind ground is defiled, the Buddha declared of such a person that he will be eternally unable to succeed in this.

Therefore, the practitioner must first take the upholding of the precepts as the foundation while employing the bringing forth of vows as auxiliary causes. Mindfulness of the buddha and the [associated] visualizations constitute a correct mode of practice. If one carries out one's cultivation in this manner and yet does not succeed in going forth to rebirth [in the Pure Land], then the Buddha would thereby fall into [the offense of] false speech.